Warren BOE votes to hire drivers

VINCENT – The Warren Local Board of Education voted Monday to hire 10 bus drivers, giving the district enough to staff the additional routes that come with the reinstatement of high school busing.

However, the district continues to struggle with mechanical issues on 11 buses, which could prompt legal action against the manufacturer.

During Monday’s regular meeting, the board approved 4-0, with member John Nichols absent, the hiring of the drivers on one-year contracts.

“All those positions are filled, so we will have an adequate number of drivers for our routes,” said Kyle Newton, who officially takes over as superintendent of the district on Aug. 1 but has been working in the district this month.

Newton’s predecessor, Tom Gibbs, expressed concern earlier this year that the district might not be able to hire enough qualified drivers in time for the start of the school year, because there weren’t enough substitutes to fill those seats even if they were all hired.

Nichols and board member Bob Allen said in May that the district would adjust accordingly, even if that meant having parents take students to designated pickup points.

On Monday, Newton said the district is still looking for substitute drivers.

“The more drivers you have, the better off you are,” he said.

Although the drivers are in place, the district has faced “long-term, ongoing warranty issues” with 11 buses, said Allen, chairman of the board’s buildings and grounds committee. Those newer models were acquired in three separate purchases, and the first set of warranties is up this fall.

Allen said district officials have met with the local dealer and the manufacturer about the problems. If the situation is not addressed, the district may file a lawsuit against the manufacturer, Navistar, Allen said.

The main problems have been with fuel injectors, but “there’s a long list of mechanical failures,” Newton said. The 11 vehicles are about a third of the district’s fleet and aren’t the oldest models in service, he said.

“They’re not spares sitting in the back,” Newton said.

With high school busing restored, the district will run 28 bus routes this year.

Allen told the board that recent rains have slowed work on roof replacements at the high school, but the contractor expects to have most of the project completed in time for the start of school on Aug. 26.

“They anticipate bringing another crew in,” he said.

The replacement of boilers at the high school and Warren Elementary School, as well as the installation of a booster to improve water pressure at the high school, should be done by the time school starts, although it will be close, Allen said.